Thursday, August 9, 2012

Best, "Man's Best Friend" Pic Ever?

I swear, half the planet has seen and fallen in love with the photo in this post, which has gone viral, as cool things do nowadays.  .

It shows a guy named John Unger cradling his dog Schoep, who is 19, in the cool waters of Lake Superior.

Schoep is floating in the water sleeping with a look of complete contentment on his face. Unger looks like he's in heaven, too.

The reason the photo is so appealing to so many people is obvious: Most of us understand a relationship with a dog is almost always all happiness. OK, a dog will misbehave, or more accurately, behave like a dog when we want Fido to behave like a human.

But ultimately, a dog will always put us in a good mood.

From what I understand, Unger and Schoep truly are besties. Schoep, being an old dog, has arthritis, and Unger discovered that Shoep feels a lot better if he  floats in the lake and naps. Shoep knows that Unger is there to keep him safe. You can see that confidence in the dog's face.

And look at Unger. Have you even seen a more peaceful, loving expression on a man's face?

The photographer, Hannah Stonehouse Hudson, says none of the photos were posed. She said she hates posed shots when she's got her camera. (For the record, I totally agree with her.) So she just let Unger and Schoep do what they normally do, and whatever shots she got, she got.

Said Stonehouse Hudson on her Facebook page: "I want people to identify with this photo, and remember a time when they felt safe, loved, and cared for.... Then I want them to channel those feelings and pay it forward! There is way too much negativity in this world - maybe with this one photo we can start to change things just a tiny bit."

Unger says he's eternally grateful to Schoep. A lot of people with dogs feel that way. I do.

In Unger's case, he said he was once suicidal after a horrible romantic breakup, according to an interview in the Duluth News Tribune.   He said Schoep snapped him out of it. He doesn't know how, but Schoep did it.

Dogs are mysterious creatures that way. They shift our emotions so dramatically, so suddenly.

This week, a colleague at work had to put his dog to sleep. His wonderful dog was terminally ill, and falling into increasing pain. There was no sense of making the poor dog suffer.

So, my colleague Adam and his wife, gave their dog a loving sendoff, giving the dog the junk food that he craved but was never allowed to have, giving the dog a long, last look at Lake Champlain, something the dog loved to do. They gave the dog a ride in the car, and just spent the evening hugging him.

I had never met the dog, but I was getting all weepy just reading Adam's Facebook updates on the situation.

The situation with Schoep and Unger is bittersweet, too. Unger told the Duluth News Tribune that if Schoep's pain worsens too much, he'll have to put him to sleep. Unger cried when he said that. Unsurprisingly.

I've discovered dogs don't just cheer you up when you're down. They alter your mood even when things are going well.

I'm getting married in a couple weeks, so things are both happy and harried in our household at the moment. 

Jackson, the young and hyper cocker spaniel, makes it a point to block my path when I'm running around, getting ready for work, figuring out the wedding, whatever. I think he's telling me to take a deep breath. And Jackson won't let me continue until I get down on the floor, give him a quick wrestle, a belly rub, and a good scratching around his neck.

It's therapy for both Jackson and me, and allows us to continue on, refreshed. And with Jackson putting me in a better mood, that will make me that much nicer to Jeff.

Then our other dog, the older and wiser Bailey comes up to me. Bailey is the calming influence. He'll stand there, almost meekly, and ask for a back rub. Then he'll give me a gentle kiss, and we both go back to what we're doing.

Their job of making Jeff and me calm and happy done, Jackson and Bailey then curl up on the cool floor and fall asleep, looking satisfied.

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